Returning to campus has been a hot topic for many students and faculty members in the Webb community. Some enjoy in-person learning and work better in such environments, while others are worried about COVID guidelines and safety.  

“I am on the fence about it because los Angeles is the epicenter of COVID-19, but I also miss my new and old friends I made through classes this year,” Celine Lau (‘22) said. 

Those fears are well-founded and take precedence over any preferences. But mental health, physical health, and social interactions are benefits of in-person learning that cannot be completely ignored.  

“I was very excited when I read Webb’s recent letter about the reopening of school because it was way more positive than I expected,” Emma Holliday (‘22) said. “I think Webb has a great plan and that we are lucky to have people who are fighting for us to be back on campus. If there is a chance to go back, you will definitely see me there! For me, I have to be cautious because my great grandma lives with my family, but I think me and my family will feel safe with all of Webb’s precautions. I am also very excited about the study groups because it will be great to be back on campus with my peers.” 

Although a full-scale return to a bustling Fawcett Library and busy Hooper Student Center is unrealistic, we can still consider a return to in-person learning by some degree: on-campus study groups. 

On-campus study groups offer a plethora of benefits. Primarily, there is the aspect of social interaction and engaging with people beyond the computer screen.  

“I would go back to Webb if it opens in April so long as it is safe. Hopefully, COVID-19 cases will significantly drop as the vaccine is distributed. Because I live so close to campus, there are not any factors besides concern for my family’s health that would determine whether I return to campus,” Josephine Burdekin (‘22) said. “I think that the on-campus study groups will be a great opportunity. Studying on campus with a group of friends would make life somewhat normal again. Any opportunity to be back on campus is great!” 

Indeed, those feelings are backed by research. A study by Professor Karl Alexander from Johns Hopkins University reports that the COVID crisis has produced a phenomenon known as the COVID slide, where students are losing as much as a year of progress due to the circumstances and pandemic. Certainly, a return to campus through any means would help alleviate this problem. Although learning is still virtual, the Webb dorms offer a community where discussion with peers is right next door, fostering a community of both mental and physical support while minding safety. Furthermore, if the situation betters, these on-campus study groups offer a quick remainder of what a post-COVID educational environment would look like.  

I think that on-campus study groups are a smart way for individuals to socialize without anything affecting their academic schedule. Additionally, I think that these study groups are a great segue to in-person learning. Currently, many Webb students feel disconnected from their classmates and are reminiscing about past Webb memories that emulate genuine happiness,” Allison Paik (‘22) said. “Therefore, I think bringing the Webb community together, safely, should be the upmost priority. I think study groups are a great alternative to on-campus learning because it focuses on uniting students rather than interrupting their schedules and forcing them to adjust to in-person academics in a short time period. 

Indeed, many students desire that return to normality. However, students do understand the situation, and we cannot throw caution to the wind in such a pandemic. 

“Personally, I haven’t decided if I would go back to Webb in April if campus opens back up,” Iris Chiu (‘21) said. “We still don’t know a lot about how the situation would look like by then, including vaccinations, personal scheduling, and local case numbers. The on-campus study groups seems like a good start, but again things would be dependent on the situation at that time.” 

Freshmen especially want semblance of a return to campus. The first year of high school is exciting and the start of a new chapter. As freshmen, the online experience is incomparable to the one on campus. 

“I would definitely go on campus if it opens in April, since I find in person learning a lot more engaging and fun. Of course, it would be best if everyone adheres to safety guidelines by wearing a mask and stays 6ft apart,” Cathy Hou (‘24) said. “Regarding the on-campus study group, I am very excited and will definitely attend them! Personally, I find working with peers to be a lot more interesting and productive.” 

“Yes, I would go back to Webb if it does open in April,” Izzy Kim (‘24) said. “I think LA County’s COVID cases would really need to go down in terms of numbers if we would even reconsider opening up for international students. Also, if we can all get vaccinated before then that would be really great because it would be safer for the general community of Webb. In regards to quarantine, it would probably be a good idea to have everyone follow a two-week quarantine prior to coming to Webb just for additional safety measures.” 

It has been almost a year since sophomores and upperclassmen last stepped on campus, knowing that they could interact with friends and faculty members without having to worry about safety issues; for freshmen, it has been almost an equally long time of living every aspect of high school life online. Therefore, a return to campus—a return to the high school normality that we have long missed—cannot wait any longer.